Day 16: Wood River, IL – Sulivan , IN , miles -187.1 , climbing – 3049 feet
On the morning of day 16, I was still holed in at the Bel-Air Motel. Casey’s felt like the safe choice for breakfast and hot coffee. The location was slightly off route but why search for something else now and experiment? At least the morning was dry and it wasn’t raining yet.
On the outskirts of town, I entered Madison county transit bluff trail through Southern Illinois University and Edwardsville, IL. The pavement was really nice and best of all, there were plenty of people out there exercising. This serves me as motivation from receiving a lot of thumbs up by fellow cyclists and runners. Plain simple, it felt great to be around a lot of people and not feeling as lonely and isolated as I did before.
That trail merges into madison county transit nickel plate trail and runs for 28 miles. My stomach was really upset but things got better as the miles piled up. Maybe I should not eat and drink like a pig next time and try digesting my food slowly 🙂
The expectations were to meet Judy once again at some point. She intercepted me somewhere before Vandalia and shot some videos of me. As I remember clipping to my pedals and telling her that I would see her later for lunch, she said something, I attempted to stop and immediately fell on the ground while hurting my left knee. What a clumsy move but we are all guilty of the good old unable to unclip fall. Further down the road, she popped up at few different locations to shout and encourage me. It felt so great to see familiar face as I first met her during RAAM 2019 when crewing for the great Marko Baloh. Just like that time, she was rocking a colorful wig and was full of positive energy and vibes.
Soon thereafter, we met in Vandalia (founded in 1819 as a new capital city for Illinois), a small charming town from the Midwest with plenty of businesses to choose from. We sat down at the Copper Penny Pub and I highly recommend it for anyone visiting. There was a nice outdoor area where you could come out with the food purchased from nearby restaurants and enjoy. Honestly, It was getting a little warm so why not enjoy the indoors for a minute?
My GPS, lights, power bank, phone & headphones needed a charge and I plugged everything in immediately. There was nothing better to do while waiting for the food but to try some local beer. The waitress Meg was the best and took good care of us. She even filled all of of my water bottles at the bar and gave me a hug, what is not to like about it? The burger and fries were very delicious and as usual, one was saved for the road. We chatted along with Judy about bikes and all things life. She is down to earth person, very easy to talk to and super fun. I truly enjoyed my time here. However, this was a race and after quick lunch , it was time to saddle my horse and keep on moving.
The progress that day was pretty good until I got rained on few times. My clothes were still wet from the previous day and it was really irritating. I tried attaching them to the seat in order to air dry them but the weather was not cooperating. Lets hope that my hotel tonight will have laundry and dryer or I will have big problems. My skin looked like as if I was sitting in jacuzzi for hours and I was afraid of developing blisters.
My stunt in southern Illinois was brief and after the crossing of the Wabash River, I was now in the state of Indiana. Kind of crazy considering that in the first week of the race, it took me 2 to 3 days just to complete one state. It was dark now upon entering Hutsonville , IL. The night gear was on but something felt odd about my surroundings. This town was nearly blocked by police right before the crossing into Indiana. About a dozen police cars were scattered around as if they were waiting for someone or had special assignment. Luckily, they weren’t looking for a sweaty, dirty and tired cyclist 🙂
If felt so good to finally cover close to 200 miles in a day. Sullivan, Indiana was where this evening ended after midnight. The additional bonus here was a Walmart across the street. This locations was selected before the race and luckily, I made it here before falling asleep somewhere on the side of the road again. When you are tired, you just jump in a ditch and sleep. So far, I slept in the a ditch, on a bench, the floor of a restroom and in a corn field. Kind of crazy but typical for ultracycling.
The time zone also switched from Central Daylight to Eastern time. After 16 days of racing, I was finally on the time zone of where the race would end. I am not going to lie, it felt awesome !
My choice for the night was hotel Days Inn by Wyndham and the the beginning of populous areas was evident. The door was locked so I had to ring the bell and wait for them to open. It begs the question of how safe it might be as well I guess. There was nobody in the lobby and masks were required per city law even if it was just me and the person behind the glass. They even put surgical gloves on just to handle my credit card. It was a bit sad as many were still living in fear and in contrast of the west where people were roaming freely as if Covid never happened. The room was very good and I was spreading everything on the king bed to reorganize it for the following day.
The presence of a guest laundry was something I looked forward to. I had to purchase zip lock bags with powder detergent for $1 from the front desk and each one was enough for like 3 loads 🙂 I showered , ate some leftovers, plugged all devices to charge and shot a quick video update while waiting on the laundry. My intentions were for another big push the following day and I spend some time checking the weather and reviewing my notes for what lays ahead. My feet were in terrible shape, so were my knees from all the beating and falls. I know its a bit gross, but this is the reality of ultracycling.
The big news was that that day Barry has taken over as the new leader of the race.
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